By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — After lauding intensified efforts by health authorities and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to accelerate vaccination across the archipelago, Partido Reporma senatorial candidate Guillermo Eleazar is now urging the government to have all Filipinos inoculated against Covid-19 amidst fears of the possible entry into the country of the more contagious and reportedly vaccine-resistant Omicron mutation of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the disease.
“Based on reports worldwide it is becoming worrisome and with variants and mutations continuing to emerge, I believe it is time that we aim for 100 percent vaccination in the country,” Eleazar enthused as he noted how the Omicron variant has made vaccine mandates urgent and justifiable.
Based on official data, since the national vaccination program began in March the current year, only about 32 percent or about 35 million of the country’s more than 110 million population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as of November 29. In this, more than 90 percent of the target population in Metro Manila has already been fully vaccinated as of early November but vaccination rates are as low as 10 percent in remote areas such as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
This is partly the reason why President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered for a three-day vaccination holiday from December 20 to October 1 and although short of the government’s target of three million daily, the 2.55 million people inoculated last Monday was 2.5 times the country’s daily average, placing the Philippines in fifth place globally in terms of most vaccinations conducted in a single day.
The other four countries in the top 5 were China (22 million), India (10 million), the United States (3.48 million) and Brazil (2.6 million).
Health undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, who heads the National Vaccination Operations Center, announced that government and its partners will continue convincing more people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Cabotaje said that among the major challenges that they encountered were walk-ins, or those who go to vaccination sites without registration, who were not vaccinated, and the non-availability of doses for minors in some vaccination centers.
The health official called on local government units (LGUs) to accommodate everyone who wanted to receive the COVID-19 vaccine today, the last day of the campaign to jab nine million individuals at 8,000 sites nationwide.
“President Duterte’s directive is to accommodate everyone. The directive is we allow walk-ins to be vaccinated. All people who lined up to get vaccinated should not be allowed to go home without getting their vaccine,” she pointed out.
Reacting to the developments, Eleazar expressed full support for the declaration of vaccination days because this would further improve the government’s initiative in protecting the populace from the pandemic and curb the spread of the disease despite the threat of the Omicron variant.
“It’s important because that we focus on intensifying our vaccination program so we can have all our countrymen protected. The truth is that we are in a scenario that we now have the potential circulation of Omicron globally and even besides that, we are ahead of the Christmas season that we know that there could be a lot of gatherings and arrivals from abroad,” he concluded. (ai/mtvn)